Saving tips

August 22, 2021

Is autopaying your bills a good idea?

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as an early adapter, I have switched to automated payments for most of my bills— primarily because it’s convenient and, in some instances, generates credit cad points. Although there's something to be said for seeing a balance in front of you ans writing a cheque of paying online.

Bill But, says Marketwatch, letting vendors reach into your wallet each and every month can be a problem since you may be setting yourself up for all-too-frequent fee hikes, surprise costs, and payments for services you never even use.

I do check, of course, and haven’t had many problems but maybe I’ve been lucky. Anyway, here are five fees you may want to worry about, Marketwatch warns.

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August 02, 2021

Is it time to abolish food banks altogether?

“Summer is a hard time for food banks,” says Robert Thorpe, who runs the Parkdale Community Food Bank in downtown Toronto.

His two main sources of food are Daily Bread and Second Harvest, both of which tell him that their cupboards are pretty bare.

A couple of years ago, his operation was mainly serving people on welfare, disability support programs and those with mental health issues. More recently, the lines have been supplemented by laid-off factory workers, information technology staff and people with administrative jobs.

“This is a group that, up until that point in their lives, had solid and stable sources of income. And for them, to get into a food bank line, was very mortifying,” he told the Toronto Star.  

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July 18, 2021

Is growing a front-yard vegetable garden really a crime?

Like many health-minded consumers, Julie Bass planted a vegetable garden on her property last year. So what? 

Images Well, she chose to take the unusual step of installing neatly arranged raised beds of vegetables in her front, rather than back, yard.

And now she faces fines and jail time thanks to local authorities who quote municipal codes that require front yards to have only “suitable” live plant material.

It comes down to property values, of course. The public display of tomatoes on the front lawn makes a home—and by extension, the surrounding residential development, neighborhood, and town—appear somehow shabby. Or so the thinking goes.

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July 13, 2021

That's right, some purchases are just plain stupid

Ever wonder how much money you could have saved if you had hung on to it somehow instead of blowing it on another tchotchke?

Book If you want to feel a bit better about your silly situation, check out Spendster. Run by the National Endowment for Financial Education, it’s a fun place to share videos and stories about some of the really dumb purchases we’ve all made.

Entrants who've created a video showing their regretful purchases qualified themselves to win one of several prizes, ranging from $100 to $1,000.

It’s all in good fun, of course, much like the late Speaker's Corner.

In addition to video and photo uploads, you’ll also find a calculator that determines the actual cost of unnecessary and poorly used credit card purchases and how much these expenditures could have generated in savings.

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June 30, 2021

Are there chores that you gladly outsource, whatever the cost?

If you run a business or have any serious money to work with, it clearly makes perfect sense to have an accountant, lawyer, and tax pro on your side rather than trying to master complex issues that can really cost you if things go wrong.

Lawn But what about all those tasks – cleaning, mowing, shovelling, painting etc. – that, while important, don’t take necessarily take a lot of skill or a decade in university?

At some point you have to recognize that your time is valuable, too, maintains the Frugal Dad.

Would you rather be enjoying more time with your kids, pursuing more entrepreneurial endeavours, or working in the yard in 30-plus heat on a Saturday?

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June 23, 2021

Are prepaid services ever worth the money?

Although not nearly as popular here as in the litigious United States, a few Canadian companies offer prepaid legal plans as an employee benefit

Legal Much like medical insurance, you pay a set amount each month and have access to the plan’s pool of lawyers. Members can prepare certain documents for you, such as draft a will, and you can have consultations (on the phone at least) a few times a year.

It's a hard-won perk for unions like the Canadian Auto Workers but is it worth the expense? Maybe, depending on your needs, but I’d prefer to go the 'a la carte' route, calling in the professionals when I need them and then taking my chances.

In fact, I’m hard pressed to come up with many services that I’d be willing to pay for before I really need them.

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June 16, 2021

5 myths debunked in defence of couponing

Extreme couponing has become quite the craze but most people still shy away from what seems to border on hoarding.

Coup But detractors are losing sight of the real purpose of couponing, say the folks at Savebrite, a mega-couponing site. And that's simply to save a few bucks. Here then are a few myths they'd like to see set aside

* Collecting coupons is too time consuming

Not true. When coupons were only available in your local Sunday paper … perhaps. But now you actually have to go out of your way to avoid them. No longer confined to a once-a-week paper, you’ll find coupons online, on manufacturer websites, on the back of receipts and on your cell phone.

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June 15, 2021

What's the best financial advice you've been given?

Whatever your politics, you have to love Barack Obama for his ability to say more with less.

866606_piggy_bank_2 For instance, we’ll concede that – again, aside from how you feel he’s performed as President – he’s probably the smartest guy in the room more often than not. So that’s why I got such a kick out of the advice he gave at a conference for money writers this week.

When asked, at a time when homes are still underwater and consumers are starting to lose their confidence again, what the best financial advice he’d ever received was, Obama said, simply: “Don’t spend all your money.”

A genuine principle. But you could almost sense the Democrat’s urge to reach out and grab every American living off unemployment but still paying for an iPhone 4 by the throat and yell, “You hear me, dummy?! Do you see what you idiots are doing? Stop! Stop spending everything! For the love of God!”

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June 07, 2021

What to look for when choosing a rewards credit card

For people who like to funnel most purchases onto a credit card, or travel on business and can keep the points, a credit card that ties to an airline may be your best bet.

Card Most Canadians opt for travel when using rewards points, with 57 per cent redeeming for flight options, well ahead of merchandise (30 per cent) and gift cards (27 per cent), according to a recent RBC poll of Canadian cardholders.

Not that using points to book travel is always easy. Many reward travellers say they’ve faced obstacles when trying to travel on reward points, with 81 per cent expressing frustration at having to book months in advance.

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May 31, 2021

Two important keys to retirement security

Are you worried what retirement is going to look like? Wondering if you'll be better off than your parents?

Ratio If you’re over age 50 and concerned about the future, consider making two changes that could significantly improve your odds of retiring, says Charles Farrell, author of Your Money Ratios: 8 Simple Tools for Financial Security.

If you combine working a little longer with some modest reductions in your retirement lifestyle, you can vastly improve your retirement picture, he suggests. 

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...